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ISLAMABAD: Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) on Monday nominated Syef Yusuf Raza Gilani as its consensus candidate for chairman Senate and warned the “establishment” to stay away from interfering in elections of chairman and deputy chairman Senate to be held on March 12 or “else it would reveal the “fact” before the nation.

The decision was taken in an eight-hour-long PDM’s leadership level meeting, which however, failed to come up with a consensus candidate to be fielded in the race for the election of deputy chairman Senate and, instead constituted a committee to deliberate upon the names, also included the JUI-F’s Abdul Ghafoor Haideri.

Speaking at a joint news conference after the meeting, PDM president Maulana Fazlur Rehman said the meeting unanimously nominated Gilani as the joint candidate of PDM for chairman Senate.

For the elections on the slots of deputy chairmanship and leader of the opposition, he said a committee headed by Shahid Khaqan Abbasi has been constituted which would meet today (Tuesday) for further deliberations to finalize the consensus candidates.

He said the meeting strongly condemned the recent “attack” on the PML-N leaders, including Marriyum Aurangzeb, in front of Parliament House.

“It was the manifestation of the behaviour and the culture being promoted in the country’s politics. It clearly shows the government’s frustration after its humiliating defeat in Senate elections,” he added.

As the PDM has announced the “long march” on March 26, he said the meeting reaffirmed its commitment for the “long march” and urged people to play their role in getting rid of this “illegitimate” government.

He said the rallies from across the country would reach its destination – Faizabad — on March 30, adding that more discussions in this regard would be held at PDM’s meeting scheduled for March 15.

About Prime Minister Imran Khan’s vote of confidence from National Assembly last week, he said the meeting termed the trust vote “unconstitutional” from an “unconstitutional” session by a “fake” premier, “which has no moral or legal authority.” He said the PDM’s meeting also deliberated upon the recent Senate elections and the “evidence” of the “sheer” violations of the ECP code of conduct. “The intelligence agencies exerted unnecessary pressure on the lawmakers which is unlawful as they can not seek votes for the government candidates. The meeting condemned the agencies’ intervention in the election process and warned that if the same was repeated during the elections for chairman and deputy chairman Senate, it would be compelled to reveal the “facts” before the nation,” he said.

Referring to PTI’s challenging Gilani’s victory, he termed it a “foolish” step of the PTI, saying that contrary to the traditions, an early hearing has also been fixed so that Gilani’s notification is stopped. “If there were questions on his election, they should have challenged it immediately. We will not accept such tactics and the PDM would continue its democratic and constitutional struggles till the objectives are achieved,” he added.

About the resignations from the assemblies, he said the option is on the table, adding that there are some issues for which a meeting on March 15 has been called to hold discussions and resolve them.

Speaking on the occasion, PPP chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari said the government has also not announced its candidate for the slot of deputy chairman and he believed that the PDM would come up with a consensus candidate.

About challenging Gilani’s election, Bilawal said the government was aware of the fact that they would not stop Gilani from becoming chairman Senate. “But we are hopeful that the ECP would not come under any pressure and we also hope our institutions not to support such tactics,” he added.

“If the establishment is avoiding its role, we will welcome it. But we want to permanently stop their role [in politics]. In case of their [establishment] involvement in elections of chairman and deputy chairman Senate, we will bring all the facts before the nation,” Bilawal warned.

To another question in case of an in-house change both at the center and in Punjab, he said he does not believe that the PML-N will refuse to accept Shahbaz Sharif as the prime minister and Hamza Shahbaz as chief minister. “We only want the elections are held free and fair,” he added. On the ‘long march’, Bilawal said all the parties are on the same page and the name of Faizabad has been proposed which is also near Islamabad.

About PML-Q’s meeting, he clarified that he went there to enquire after the health of Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain and also contradicted the media reports that the PML-Q leadership refused to ensure its support for any in-house change in Punjab and vote for Gilani.

He said that on all such issues, it would be the PDM to finalize the date and “we demand that all institutions should remain in their constitutional ambit and if there are violations, we will reveal the fact”.

Maryam Nawaz, the PML-N vice president, claimed that the opposition has the required majority to elect its chairman Senate.

“Why have you nominated your candidate? Is it because you want to exert pressure through agencies and buy the senators?” she asked.

To another question about no-confidence motion in Punjab, Maryam said that after the 2018 general elections, PML-N was in majority in Punjab and that majority was “stolen”.

She claimed that a “large” number of lawmakers from Punjab are in contact with them, adding: “we will make a decision keeping all the available options on the table.”

Earlier addressing the meeting, PDM president Maulana Fazlur Rehman stressed that the opposition’s forthcoming “long march” should be held through a proper strategy. He also floated a proposal that the participants of the march should stay in Rawalpindi for a few days.

The maulana also insisted on tendering resignations from the assemblies, saying that it was also a democratic option and after resignations, the PDM’s entire focus should be on the anti-government movement.

Former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in his address via a video link said the objective of PDM’s creation was not meant to come into power, “but to give an end to the establishment’s political role in the country”.

He also congratulated Gilani for defeating the ruling party’s Finance Minister Abdul Hafeez Shaikh in the recently held Senate polls.

PPP co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari also participated in the meeting via a video link and congratulated the PDM for the victory of Gilani in Senate polls.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2021

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